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Google Bowls a Googly

So Google is a Phone manufacturer too. How does that change the game?

 

By Navin Williams

So Google is a Phone manufacturer too. How does that change the game?

After the Nexus 1 fiasco where Google got HTC to build the phone and at the same time tried to be the master distributor cum salesman, it was pretty clear that unless Google became a direct manufacturer their sway amongst other manufacturers and service providers was going to be considerably weak. So they buckled (or so we thought) and shifted the battle to the OS. The OS battle was handsomely fought (no bruises) by Google giving everyone competing a run for their money. Luckily with the mobile boom everyone is growing except Nokia, but Microsoft hopes to change that too. What’s more, Google had all the manufacturers from Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, etc.. singing their praises and building their Android fueled arsenal.

Then came the googly (a cricketing term which effectively means a disguised play of action). Google’s googly last week totally flummoxed all industry players. With Google having gracefully withdrawn from its Nexus 1 debacle and putting all its energies into partnering with various manufacturers and tomtoming Android’s rapid growth via rising activations (June 2011 = 500,000 per day; July 2011 = 550,000 activations per day), who would have thought they would get back in the ring so soon? Worse for the 30+ brigade (there are over 30 manufacturers currently manufacturing handsets based on Google’s android), Google is stepping into the ring with their hand firmly in their pockets (imagine Google with octopus 30+ hands). You would think from the quotes  by some Android phone manufacturers that they are as ecstatic as Google. But who can blame them – what would you do if you were in their swimming pool (tentacles and all)?

Just when the world was turning Android and people could dream of a potential dominant single OS, we have Google’s perfectly placed bouncing ball that can spin either way.

Allow me to paint a few scenarios from the top of my fertile mind :

  1. Motorola functions independently and is treated like just another 30+. The 30+ club grows to 40+ and life moves on.
  2. Motorola gets all the good stuff first and slowly becomes the preferred Android handset manufacturer in the market. Impact :
    1. Android gets even more steroids (imagine that!) and Android user experience grows exponentially with Google able to integrate all its components of Google +, Android, Gmail, Picassa, etc. This leads to Google getting aggressive (read as fight for leadership) in the ring with both Facebook and Apple at the same time.
    2. Microsoft beds 30+ to rise from the ashes and claim its desired dominant position it so enjoys in PC land.
    3. Motorola gets preferential treatment on android but its releases are so bad that it’s back on life support. In the meantime some of 30+ have abandoned ship for friendlier OSs or played a satisfying role in crushing Motorola.

For the Market Research industry what does this mean? For one anyone waiting for the environment to settle down is welcome to keep waiting; this dance is here to stay. Any mobile solutions that need to be delivered in a representative and actionable manner will need to cover multiple manufacturers and platforms. Any single OS solutions is going to be highly limiting and hinder the impact that mobile can have. Solutions that evolve with the mobile market realities will thrive.

 

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